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Mailbag: Fix cell tower loophole

June 26, 2010

Hillside residents opposing the proposed T-Mobile cell tower at Brace Canyon recreational park are grateful that our city leaders and staff for their diligence in updating the city's wireless facility ordinance.

The City Council special joint study session with the Planning Board yielded a radio frequency emissions compliance report as part of the application process, and more rigorous aesthetic requirements.

Very importantly, our leaders want to modify our code so that a first facility will not automatically be installed by right, as our current ordinance allows. We also thank Deputy City Planner Michael Forbes, who at the close of the meeting, recommended the city host a community meeting for residents to provide input.

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Toward that goal, we ask our leaders to please fix a giant loophole threatening our neighborhoods — our ordinance lacks any regulations addressing wireless facility installations in public rights of way. As a result, how would you like to wake up and find a cell tower right outside your bedroom window, installed on your sidewalk, alley, or on top of your streetlight or utility pole without any advanced public notice, hearing or means of appeal?

That's what's happening right now throughout the city of Los Angeles, where more than 40 neighborhood councils and resident organizations are calling for new regulations to halt the growing proliferation of such wireless facilities. Burbank needs to adopt a moratorium, or halt any such proposed installations before it becomes a serious problem in our city, too.

In April, Clearwire got two of its wireless facility installations in Burbank approved, and its reps informed our Planning Board that they've begun deployment in Los Angeles. But how many others do they want to install, and next to which homes? What is our long-term master plan to address these massive deployments?

Cell towers, whether they are disguised as palm or pine trees, or mounted on top of utility and telephone poles, present documented fire and fall hazards, attract crime and negatively affect property values. This is why they are commercial facilities that belong in commercial areas away from our schools, homes and parks.

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